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memri
August 1, 2019 No.
8208

Egyptian Clerics Mobilize In Support Of Regime's Population Control Efforts

In advance of World Population Day, July 11, Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) published, on July 9, 2019, statistics on Egypt's population showing that as of the start of 2019, it had reached 98.1 million. This is an increase of 3.3 million since the last census, in 2017, when it stood at 94.8 million.[1]  

This rapid population growth is very worrying for the Egyptian regime, as it must provide education, health, and many other services at a time when the country is in a profound economic crisis.[2]

For some time, the Egyptian regime has been promoting population control in the country. For example, on January 26, 2019, the National Population Council met for the first time in four years. At this plenary session it again tackled its missions, which include population control. Health Minister Halah Zayed announced that the council would lead a population policy that would enable the greatest possible socioeconomic growth. Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khaled Mujahed said that the conference reflected the state's commitment to implementing a policy that would balance population growth with available resources and to increasing investment in human resources.[3]

Leading clerics in Egypt, including Minister of Religious Endowments Muhammad Mukhtar Guma'a and former mufti Ali Guma'a joined in the regime's information efforts. Minister Guma'a stated that the use of birth control is permitted in Islam and that the current circumstances even necessitate it, while the former mufti  stated that it was permitted, even if a woman was preventing pregnancy for esthetic reasons. Dr. Muhammad Salah Al-Badri, who writes for the Egyptian Al-Watan daily, also discussed the matter in an article, calling on the official religious institutions to work to change the popular perception that having children is more of a religious matter than an economic matter, and convincing the public of the vital importance of family planning.


Minister of Religious Endowments Muhammad Mukhtar Guma'a (source: Youtube.com/watch?v=eFTiVMmvtI8, July 7, 2019)

On the other hand, the Qatar- and Turkey-backed International Union of Muslim Scholars, which is known for its opposition to the regime of Egyptian President Al-Sisi, republished a column by Dr. Ahmad Al-Raissouni stating that a high birthrate and education constitute the mightiest jihad of all, because they preserve Islam and the human race.

The following are translated excerpts from statements on the subject of population control and family planning in Egypt:

Minister Of Religious Endowments: Family Planning Is For "The Good Of The Mother, Child, Family, And Society"

In his Friday, July 12 sermon at Cairo's Sultan Hassan mosque, Minister of Religious Endowments Muhammad Mukhtar Guma'a discussed, among other issues, the subject of family planning in the context of Egypt's high birthrate. He said: "Some think that they can support any number of children who they give birth to. But this concerns not only the individual, and this matter of population [growth] should not be viewed as isolated from the situation of the society and the state, and the state's capabilities. A man can provide food for his children, but can he provide them with a  framework? Can he provide them with electricity, a good education, and good health by himself, separately from the state? [Since he cannot, then raising children] is not measured only by people's individual capabilities, but by theirs' and the state's together."[4]

Minister Guma'a added, taking into account that Egyptian Mufti Dr. Shawki 'Alam and other high-level individuals were attending his sermon, that his statements were acceptable to the mufti and to Al-Azhar, and stressed: "Family planning is absolutely not against Islam – on the contrary, our reality necessitates such planning, for the good of the mother, child, family, and society. This is because what is important is not having many children, but our ability to nurture a generation that that will enjoy good health [care], good education, and good services. If population growth [in Egypt] is not controlled... it will not be possible to actualize any growth."[5]

Former Egyptian Mufti: Women May Use Birth Control

In a video released several days previously, on July 7, 2019, former Egyptian mufti Dr. Ali Guma'a answered a question from a woman. She asked: "I have a son and a daughter, and I want to prevent [another] pregnancy. Is this permitted?" He responded, "It is permitted!" and went on to explain that this ruling was based on one by Imam Al-Ghazali[6] who had said that a woman is allowed to prevent pregnancy even if it is because she fears that pregnancy would ruin her looks.[7]

Al-Watan Writer: Change The Popular Perception That Having Children Is A Religious Matter

Following the publication of the population statistics, Dr. Muhammad Salah Al-Badri wrote in the Al-Watan daily, which is affiliated with the Egyptian regime, that Egypt's population growth rate is among the highest in the world and addressing it should be top priority. He stated: "President Al-Sisi has warned more than once and on different occasions about the danger of [high] population growth. He has stressed that it is like terrorism, and that it thwarts all the state's means of development. [He] has repeatedly ordered that appropriate steps be taken to limit it, but I think that not enough effort has been put toward this."

Emphasizing that the regime family-planning campaigns had not gained traction because of uneducated and unauthorized sheikhs' baseless fatwas stating that having children was more of a religious matter than an economic matter, he called on official religious institutions, including Al-Azhar, to weigh in on the campaign in order to help change ways of thinking among the masses, and to involve the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Solidarity in these efforts. He also urged that media exposure be provided for authorized sheikhs and economics and housing experts, so that they could persuade the public of the importance of limiting family size.[8]

Sheikh Opposes Family Planning: Having Children Is Jihad For The Sake Of Allah

As the religious discourse in Egypt supporting a lower birthrate continued, the International Union of Muslim Scholars posted an old article by IUMS head Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Raissouni opposing limiting family size. The IUMS was established in 2004 by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, known as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is backed by Qatar and Turkey, whose relations with the Egyptian regime are tense. The republication of this article is likely connected to the ongoing religious discourse on the subject.

The article, from 2014, was published on the IUMS website under the headline "Having Children And Education Constitute the Mightiest Jihad." It stated: "Having children actualizes one of the most important aims of Islam – preserving the [Islamic] seed that will in turn lead to preservation of Islam and allow it to continue forever. This is because preserving the human race – by means of which Islam exists – will assure this." He added that while once there were wars and conquests and conversion to Islam, today there are fewer converts, and "there is no choice but to produce offspring in order to preserve Islam and to breed Muslims. Therefore, having children is jihad for the sake of Allah and the religion." [9]

 

[1] Anwarmarefa.com/tfr/24446, July 9, 2019.

[2] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1285, Egyptian Economic Crisis Leads To Increased Calls To Reduce The Country's Birthrate, December 5, 2016.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 26, 2019.

[4] Ar.awkafonline.com,July 12, 2019

[5] Elbalad.news, July 12, 2019.

[6] Abu Hamad Muhammad Al-Ghazali (I1058=1111), an important medieval Persian orthodox Sunni philosopher, theologian, and jurisprudent.

[7] Youtube.com/watch?v=eFTiVMmvtI8, July 7, 2019.

[8] Elwatannews.com, July 16, 2019.

[9] Iumsonline.org, July 17, 2019. It should be noted that this article was published years earlier, on January 21, 2014, on Hespress.com.